As you all know, I am taking part in #CampNaNoWriMo for August. These are the last days, and I’m doing really well.
Ok, I’m doing well enough.
I’ve writing religiously almost everyday since August 1, and my story is coming along really well. I just thought I would share with you a email I got from Camp Organisers today. I final Hurrah, if you will to prevent us from quitting.
” From: Camp NaNoWriMo
Find a seat anywhere you’d like around the campfire. Everyone settled? Good. It’s cold out tonight. Icy stars, the black silhouettes of the pines against the sky… they say that if you listen really carefully on this kind of night, strain your ears and wait, you can hear the lament of the Camp Specter.
You’ve never heard of the Camp Specter? Well, they say that a long, long time ago, when Camp was founded in the olden days of 2011, there was a camper who started hearing voices. One night, after a long day of writing sprints and plot-diving, she collapsed into her bunk bed and turned out the lights, only to be woken up by a whispering in her cabin.
At first, the words weren’t clear. A pit grew in the bottom of her stomach, and though she knew she shouldn’t, she couldn’t help listening until she understand every word of the mantra…”Who cares about your novel?” the voice asked, over and over. “Who cares?”
Annoyed, she jumped out of bed and threw on the lights, only to be faced by the blinking, sleepy faces of her cabinmates, and no one to take responsibility for the mean-spirited voice.
The next morning, during Quiet Writing Time, she couldn’t help remembering the voice. “I do care,” she told herself, as she put down her pen and journal anyway. “But maybe I’ll come back to this tomorrow.”
That night, the voice came back to her in her dreams. “What’s the point?” it asked. “What’s the point of working so hard?”
And so it went on, day after day, and night after night. She hadn’t written more than a paragraph in nearly a week. Her plot became foreign to her, and her characters like strangers. She still wanted to write, but the drive was flickering like a dying flame.
Finally, one night, the voice said, “Better to wait until you’re more talented, until you’ve become more seasoned. Better to try when you actually have something interesting to say. Better to just quit writing altogether.”
But our camper had had enough. She sat straight up in bed, and said very calmly, and very assertively, “Nonsense and shenanigans. I do have something to say, and a story I care about. If I followed your advice, I’d be waiting to write forever. If I take a break from this novel, it’ll be for my own reasons, not because I think I’m not good enough, or that my stories are silly.”
The silence that followed was as thick as over-whipped cream. Then, finally, a ghost about the size of her fist, with a more than passing resemblance to a Pac-Man character, popped into sight. Bobbing there, it asked, curiously, “What’s your novel even about?”
The camper took a deep breath and dove in, and as she talked the Specter through the twists and turns, the character motivations and backstory, the Specter’s eyes grew bigger and bigger.
When she finally stopped, it asked, breathless, “Then what?” And when she said, “I don’t know yet. I haven’t finished my novel,” it exploded out of sight, shouting, “I need to knooooowwww!!!”
We can all take a lesson from that brave camper, novelists. When the voices ask, “Who cares?” know that it’s more than enough that you care; that you have a story you think is worth telling, and a passion for your craft. After all, no one could tell your story quite the way you can. And on quiet nights, when that cursor is blinking at you forlornly, listen for the specter and its new mantra as it roams our campgrounds, desperate for narrative…
“Then what?” it moans.
I thought it was a good piece of advice that every writer should have.